Comma Splicers Anonymous

In my senior English class at Central High School in San Angelo, Texas, there were a few grammar mistakes that were considered to be mortal offenses. Include one of these in a paper, and you received an automatic F. Among these unforgivable sins was the comma splice.

When two independent clauses are connected by only a comma, they constitute a run-on sentence that is called a comma-splice. (Guide to Grammar and Writing by the Capital Community College Foundation)

So why is it that I’ve taken to using comma splices as a stylistic device? As I attempt to recapture the cadences of my preaching, I join sentences together with nothing but a comma between them, when I should really use a semi-colon. It’s a nasty habit I’ve gotten into.

But under normal circumstances, such a mistake has no real consequences beyond annoying grammar connoisseurs. I’ve discovered, however, that writing a book for publication does not fall under the category of “normal circumstances.” Editors read what you write and make corrections that make sense to them. When faced with a comma splice, they do their best to turn it into proper English. Doing so can, at times, change the meaning of a sentence.

Consider, for example, the following which I wrote for Letters From The Lamb:

“Tolerance and political correctness warp our doctrine, nationalism and patriotism distract us from our true calling.”

To my reading ear, the cadence of that “sentence” was logical: this and this cause one thing, that and that cause another. If a period or semi-colon were to intrude on the musical flow of those words, it would come after the word “doctrine.” I assumed any reader would read it the same way.

Any reader, perhaps, but a proofreader. Faced with this linguistic aberration, the copyeditor read “doctrine, nationalism and patriotism” as a series. The sentence was fixed in the following way:

“Tolerance and political correctness warp our doctrine, nationalism and patriotism—and distract us from our true calling.”

Blech! When I first read the sentence in the published book, I thought that the change had been made on ideological grounds. Then I read the original carefully and saw that it was a grammatical correction. One that greatly altered the meaning of the sentence.

Whose fault was it? Mine, of course. My English teacher would have flunked the whole book based on that sentence alone. I guess I should have paid more attention in class. As of now, I’m going to a special 12-step program for comma splicers, seeking to overcome my syntax abuse. One day at a time.

Letters From The Lamb book video

I’ve shared some of Herald of Truth’s videos over the past few months, but I never shared the video I put together for our book. Book trailers have become common over the last few years, so we developed one for Letters From The Lamb. It’s only 90 seconds, so why not take a moment to watch it?

Speaking of the book, we’re preparing some promotional materials with quotes from readers. If anyone would like to submit a “blurb,” we’d be thrilled to have it.

Have a great weekend!

The letter to Laodicea: Who at the door is standing?

The imagery of Revelation 3:20 captures the imagination, Jesus standing and knocking at the door of the sinner’s heart. Many have used this as an image of conversion, taking this passage as a teaching verse for non-Christians.

lettersThe only way to do that is to ignore the context. This letter isn’t going out to the unconverted. This is an appeal to the Christian who has fallen away. In Letters From The Lamb I wrote:

Jesus is speaking to a group of people who already profess to be his followers. They need to recognize that they have reached the point where Jesus is no longer in their lives, no longer in their hearts, and they need to find the way to let him back in… Christians can reach the point where Jesus vomits them out of his mouth, they can travel to the place where Jesus is no longer in their lives. That’s when we stop, repent, and open the door to let him back in. Or we will have our name blotted out of the Book of Life.

(Letters From The Lamb, pp. 154-55)

I hope you’ve enjoyed these excerpts from the book. Starting next week, we’ll move on to another topic.

The letter to Laodicea: Tough love

lettersJesus has no words of praise for the church in Laodicea. It would have been easy for them to think that he no longer loved them. In fact, the very opposite was true. The fact that he cared enough to discipline them showed his love. As I wrote in Letters From The Lamb:

It’s common in our modern world for parents to feel that the best way to show love for their children is to give them free rein and not correct them in anything. Yet the Bible says the exact opposite. If we truly love, we will discipline. The letter to the Hebrews says it well: “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” (Hebrews 12:5-8) Failure to discipline is not love; it’s either a lack of love or it is cowardice. True love disciplines, challenges, corrects. If Jesus did not love the church in Laodicea, he would not waste his time writing to a church that had lost its passion. The very fact that he cares enough to point out their faults shows that he loves them.

(Letters From The Lamb, pp. 153-54)

True love is willing to face the discomfort that comes from discipline. We also have to be willing to be corrected by God, even if that discipline is less than pleasant.

The letter to Laodicea: What makes Jesus vomit

lettersOne of the most famous images from the letter to Laodicea is that of the “lukewarm” Christian that Jesus will spew from his mouth (the original word means to vomit). Knowing a bit of the geography of the area helps us understand a bit more the meaning this reference would have had for them:

The great vulnerability of the city of Laodicea was its water supply. Water had to be piped in from far away, leaving the city vulnerable to attacks in times of war. (This fact forced the politicians in Laodicea to become skilled in the art of diplomacy!) In fact, the most outstanding ruins where Laodicea once stood are the remains of an aqueduct system which once helped bring water to the city; the pipes had cleaning grates at regular intervals to allow the mineral deposits to be scraped out due to the high mineral content in the area’s water. The nearby town of Hierapolis is famous for its hot springs; the water flowing from them formed large white terraces, in a place now called Pamukkale (“cotton castle”). It’s a popular resort in Turkey, with people traveling miles to bathe in the hot springs. Though soothing to soak in, the water has a foul odor and is sickening to drink. If the water were transported to Laodicea, it would merely be a tepid, brackish drink, capable only of inducing vomiting. In the other direction lies Denizli, a town whose name means “place with a large body of water.” The name probably comes from the existence of underground springs in the area. This water, refreshingly cool when it appears at the source, is excellent for drinking. However, by the time it was piped several miles to Laodicea, this water would also arrive in a lukewarm state.

(Letters From The Lamb, p. 150)

The Christians at Laodicea would have understood in a vivid way what Jesus was talking about when he referred to them being neither hot nor cold. They would understand why Jesus was ready to reject them.

As always, God communicated his message in a relevant way for those who first heard it.